13th April – making ribboned wands

Quite early on in my meetings with the stitchers at Rose Tinted Rags, I took along my ribboned stave or wand that I had previously made to re-enact the old tradition of ‘Beating the Bounds’ as documented by folklorist Ella Mary Leather in 1912. She describes how the only trace of this old tradition in Herefordshire is the Gospel oak trees which stand at the meeting point of three or four parish boundaries. I took along my ribboned wand as it was February 23rd, the ancient Roman Festival day called Terminalia, in which they honoured the god Terminus who presided over boundaries. I wanted to talk in the session about how rivers cross borders and boundaries whilst the group stitched their snowdrops.

Rose Tinted Rags stitchers requested to make ribboned wands too, so a few weeks later we did.

Incidentally, it had been whilst searching for the Gospel Oak/Battle Oak at Mortimer’s Cross with my friend, the artist Kate Green, back in January 2020, that I had been inspired by the river and the idea of snowdrops which had then led to this whole project. On that day, I found an oak tree by a Lugg riverbend, Kate sat under it and played and sang her tune about processioning. Also the mill owner gave me nine mill sacks and told how he throws a few snowdrops into the Lugg on the anniversary of the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross of 1461, when ‘the river ran red’ from the many soldiers that died. Today I feel the river itself is metaphorically ‘running red’ due to the death of its non-human life forms because of our industry and pollution. For that reason, I had also incorporated a single red ribbon in my original ribboned wand.

On the last day of the twelve week stitching project, we walked through High Town in Hereford with our staves or wands to Bishop’s Palace Gardens for a picnic by the River Wye. One of the stitcher’s had worked for many years as gardener but was now retired. He had told us stories about his experience of the river there and also of living by the Lugg. It was extra special to visit the garden with him and he was our ‘in’ to having a private visit! We planned to launch a model boat we had made that morning for natural materials using the same materials and method I had used to make the strewing baskets for the upcoming exhibition of all the stitched snowdrops.

Bishop’s Palace gatehouse
Our wands lying on the grass whilst we picniced!
Anna, the head gardener telling us about the garden whilst we had our picnic
View of the Wye from Bishop’s Palace garden
A beautiful garden
The boat being carried down for the launch

Anna launched the boat for us (to prevent us slipping in the river!) and we watched it partially submerge and float away

Spot the boat floating down the Wye!

We also tested the Wye for phosphates and nitrartes using the tests from CPRE’s Citizen Science project. Levels were low today.

Many thanks to all the staff of Bishop’s Palace garden who made us so welcome, to Anna for her time, and for a fabulous end to the 12 week stitching programme. We resisted trying on their ‘rags’ as we left!

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